Frequently Asked Questions - Survey Vendors
What are the requirements for becoming an approved MA & PDP CAHPS Survey vendor?
To be considered for approval as an MA & PDP CAHPS Survey vendor, organizations must meet all the Minimum Business Requirements.
Who pays for survey administration?
MA and PDP contracts contract directly with approved MA & PDP CAHPS Survey vendors to conduct the survey. Contracts communicate their choice of vendor to CMS via a web-based Vendor Authorization and Oversample request tool.
When may survey vendors submit participation requests for MA & PDP CAHPS Survey administration?
Please monitor the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey website for updates and information regarding the next vendor participation announcement, which is anticipated to open early to late summer of each year.
What is involved in executing a DUA with CMS for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey?
Survey vendors that participate in the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey must execute a Data Use Agreement (DUA) with CMS to permit survey vendor access to the sample files. Survey vendors are responsible for:
- Ensuring that all contact information is accurate on the DUA, including for each subcontractor that views enrollee-level data (e.g., name, address, telephone number)
- Updating current DUAs before the start of the next survey administration cycle
- Extending current DUAs before their expiration date if necessary. If a DUA for an organization expires, it is important to note that ALL open DUAs for that organization will be frozen. This means that no new DUAs or actions on existing DUAs (e.g., adding data, changing contacts, or extending) can proceed for any DUA held by that organization until the expired DUA is either extended or closed.
For more information, please visit the CMS DUA website: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Computer-Data-and-Systems/Privacy/index.html
What languages are available for MA & PDP CAHPS Survey administration?
The MA & PDP CAHPS Survey is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog. All contracts are required to administer the survey in English and Spanish, and contracts have the option to administer the survey in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and/or Tagalog depending on the needs of their enrollees. The Chinese translation of the survey is appropriate for Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.
Who will draw the sample?
CMS will draw the sample. The sample is drawn at the contract level, using each contract’s current enrollment in January. Eligible enrollees must have 6 months of continuous enrollment in the MA or PDP contract beginning in July of the previous year and must still be enrolled in the contract at the time of the January sample draw.
What will be the data collection protocol and timeline for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey?
The MA & PDP CAHPS Survey is collected by web and mail with telephone follow-up of non-respondents (referred to as a web-mail-phone mode approach).
The data collection schedule and detail on the data collection protocol are included in the QAP&TS.
What is the web protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey?
The web component of the data collection protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey requires mailing of a pre-notification letter to all sampled enrollees, followed by an initial survey invitation. The survey invitation is sent via email to those enrollees with an available email address and via letter to those enrollees without an available email address. Enrollees with an email address will receive an email reminder to complete the survey. The pre-notification letter, initial survey invitation, and email reminder must contain the web survey URL and a PIN code unique to the enrollee. CMS describes the web protocol in detail in Chapter VI: Data Collection Protocol of the QAP&TS.
What is the mail protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey?
The mail component of the data collection protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey is targeted to sampled enrollees who do not respond to the web survey and requires mailing an initial survey and cover letter, and a second survey mailing and cover letter (when appropriate). CMS describes the mail protocol in specific detail in Chapter VI: Data Collection Protocol of the QAP&TS.
What is the telephone protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey?
The telephone component of the data collection protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey requires telephone follow up with non-respondents to the web or mail survey component using a CATI system of the vendor’s choosing. Survey vendors must attempt to reach every enrollee eligible for telephone follow up. Repeated attempts must be made until the enrollee is contacted, found ineligible, or five attempts have been made over at least a 21-calendar day period. After five attempts to contact the enrollee by telephone have been made, no further attempts are to be made. CMS describes the telephone protocol in specific detail in Chapter VI: Data Collection Protocol of the QAP&TS.
How will survey vendors obtain the survey materials?
The MA & PDP CAHPS Survey Project Team will provide Word versions of the survey materials to approved vendors via the Technical Assistance email. CMS will also post PDF versions of the survey materials on the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey website in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog.
Will CMS allow vendors to send out initial email invitations across multiple days?
CMS anticipates that vendors will employ common practices to manage and promote the delivery of emails to sampled enrollees. Actions for your organization to consider include acquiring additional Internet Protocol (IP) addresses; measuring the reputation of your IP addresses; use of domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC); and/or use of DomainKeys identified mail (DKIM). CMS expects all survey vendors to implement data collection on the schedule indicated in Chapter VI: Data Collection Protocol of the QAP&TS.
Will CMS provide an email address for sampled enrollees?
The sample provided by CMS will not include enrollee email address. Survey vendors are encouraged to obtain email addresses for all of a contract’s enrollees directly from the contract following the procedures described in Chapter VI: Data Collection Protocol of the QAP&TS. The Business Associate Agreement (BAA) between a survey vendor and a contract may require updating to include sharing of contract enrollee email address data.
Will the surveys be required to be printed in color?
Survey vendors have the option to print the surveys in black and white with a highlight color. The data collection protocol for the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey does not require the surveys to be printed in color.
Are there any restrictions or limitations on using Medicare CAHPS to survey Medicare enrollees at other time points in the year outside the range of the official Medicare CAHPS data collection cycle?
CMS strongly encourages contracts and survey vendors NOT to ask Medicare enrollees any MA & PDP CAHPS Survey questions four weeks prior to, during, and four weeks after the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey administration period (that is, from February 1 to June 30 each year). Other CMS surveys are exempt from this guidance. CMS provides this recommendation to promote response rates to both MA & PDP CAHPS and additional data collection efforts.
Are survey vendors allowed to conduct analysis of the MA & PDP CAHPS Survey data for their contract clients?
Survey vendors may provide contracts with preliminary survey results. When providing contracts with preliminary survey results, survey vendors must communicate to contracts that the survey vendor scores are not the official CMS scores. In addition, no data may be appended to the sample file without advance written permission of CMS. All reports vendors provide to contracts (whether paper or electronic format) must include a statement that vendor results are unofficial and are for the contract’s internal quality improvement purposes only. Intervention or follow-up with low scoring individuals is not permitted.
As detailed in the CMS Data Use Agreement, no data involving cells, including cross-tabulated cells, with sample sizes less than 11 may be shared with contracts under any circumstances. These instructions prohibit display counts of 1-10 or any numbers that allow the inference of a count of 1-10. Failure to adhere to the CMS Data Use Agreement violates requirements of the Privacy Act, the Privacy Rule, and CMS data release policies, and may be considered a breach or violation of data safeguarding. Please visit cms.gov/privacy to learn more about CMS privacy policies and data safeguarding.
Last modified on 10/24/2023